Dogs have moods and personality traits that are shaped by their owners, according to new research from the US.
Researchers from Michigan State University found that when dog-parents spend extra time scratching their dogs’ bellies, take their dogs out for long walks and games of fetch, or even when they feel constant frustration over their dogs’ naughty chewing habits, they are gradually shaping their dogs’ personalities.
“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change,” lead author Professor William Chopik said. “We found that this also happens with dogs—and to a surprisingly large degree.
“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals.”
Additionally, Professor Chopik found that dogs’ personalities can predict many important life outcomes. For example, a pooch’s personality will influence how close they feel to their owner, biting behaviour and even chronic illness.
The study—published in the Journal of Research in Personality—is the largest and one of the first to examine changes in dogs’ personalities.
Professor Chopik and his colleague surveyed owners of more than 1600 dogs, including 50 different breeds. Dogs ranged from just a few weeks to 15 years old, and were split closely between male and female.
The extensive survey had owners evaluate their dog’s personalities and answer questions about the dog’s behavioural history. The owners also answered a survey about their own personalities.
The findings prove just how much power humans have over influencing a dog’s personality.